Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Captious -

apt to raise objections to trivial faults or defects; difficult to please.

Example: The captious in-laws made life quite difficult for their son's new wife.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

The Firefly Letters
by Margarita Engle

Flap Copy Description:
When Fredrika Bremer asked the Swedish Consulate to find her a quiet home in the Cuban countryside she expected a rustic thatched hut, not this luxurious mansion in Matanzas, where Elena, the daughter of the house, can barely step foot outside.

The freedom to roam is something that women and girls in Cuba do not have. Yet when Fredrika sets off to learn about the people of this magical island, she is accompanied by Cecelia, a young slave who longs for her lost home in Africa. Soon Elena sneaks out of the house to join them. As the three women explore the lush countryside, they form a bond that breaks the barriers of language and culture.

My Thoughts:
This novel in verse, by Cuban-American poet, Margarita Engle, is a Pura Belpre' Honor book. Ms. Engle's exquisite writing style is the perfect vehicle for her lovely story. This beautiful novel is not only written in heartfelt, poignant prose, but was inspired by the author, Fredrika Bremer's life. Ms. Bremer was Sweden's first female novelist, and was one of the earliest advocates for women's rights in the world. I would highly recommend The Firefly Letters to all females from the ages of eight to eighty.

To visit the website of the award-winning author, Margarita Engle, click here:

To learn more about the life of Sweden's Fredrika Bremer, click here:

Friday, January 25, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Courtesy of Public Domain
Damsel in Distress?

Clearly, this damsel is in danger and distress - but I'm not so sure about my female protagonist. After completing the second rewrite of my work in progress last fall, I became painfully aware that I had not challenged my main character enough. Consequently, I am busy completing another rewrite with a much more potent antagonist. 

As writers, we are all aware of the importance of obstacles in the path of our heroine/hero, but without a fearsome face for the reader to focus on as the "villain" our extraordinary efforts could fall flat.

This quote perfectly states what I so recently realized:

"If your antagonist isn't important, then your protagonist isn't important."
S. Alex Martin

Do you have any thoughts on the importance of your antagonist?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Bellicose -

warlike: ready or inclined to quarrel, fight, or go to war.

Example: The bellicose statements from both nations ultimately led to a battle.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

Splendors and Glooms
by Laura Amy Schlitz

Flap Copy Description:
The master puppeteer Gaspare Grisini is so expert at manipulating his stringed puppets that they appear alive. Clara Wintermute, the only child of a wealthy doctor, is spellbound by Grisini's act and invites him to entertain at her home. Seeing his chance to make a fortune. Grisini accepts and makes a splendidly gaudy entrance with his caravan, puppets, and two orphaned assistants.

Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are dazzled by the Wintermute home. Clara seems to have everything they lack: adoring parents, warmth, and plenty to eat. In fact, Clara's life is shadowed by grief, guilt, and secrets. When she vanishes that night, suspicion of kidnapping falls on the puppeteer.

As they seek to puzzle out Clara's whereabouts, Lizzie and Parse uncover Grisini's criminal past and wake up to his evil intentions. Fleeing London, they find themselves caught in a trap set by Grisini's ancient rival, a witch with a deadly inheritance to shed before it's too late.

My Thoughts:
If you enjoyed the classics Oliver Twist or David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, then you or your child will thrill to Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz. The author's character development, setting descriptions, and plot development are wonderful. She spins a tale of magic, mystery, and intrigue all set in eighteenth century England. I would highly recommend this 384 page novel to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

To learn more about the author - Laura Amy Schlitz - click here:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sentimental Serendipity

Public Domain
Giveaway Winner!

On Monday of this week I interviewed author, Bobbie Pyron, and featured a giveaway of her book - The Dogs of Winter. The winner (drawn randomly) is...drum roll please...
S.P. Bowers!

Here is the actual copy of the book I'll be sending Sara sometime next week. Congratulations, Sara!

The same day I featured the book giveaway, I just happened to win a gift of my own from Loree Huebner. What a fun day Monday turned out to be. Thanks ever so much for the Starbucks card, Loree!
On an inspirational note, I visited the blog of Theresa Milstein yesterday and discovered she had featured the Writer's Creed.
After reading this wonderful creed, I just had to add my name to the growing list of writers who have joined. If you are interested in learning more about it, or signing the creed, click Writer's Creed 2013.
So far 2013 has been a great year in blogosphere - lots of informative and inspirational posts!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

Novels in Verse
2013 Reading Challenge

Every so often in life two things come together in a wonderful way. You know what I mean: like coffee and biscotti, or skiing and powdered snow, or maybe even a writer and an agent! Well, although the latter has not yet happened for me, something else has...

My journey as a writer began many years ago writing poems. Having had a few poems published (none recently) I have always really thought of myself as a poet. The more recent leg of my writing journey has caused me to feel like a poet striving to be a novelist. Earlier this week I visited the blog of a good online friend, Ruth Schiffmann. She had posted about the Novels in Verse 2013 Reading Challenge. Prose, Poetry, Verse in a Novel! The perfect partnership! I was so excited I signed up within minutes. How I had previously missed this opportunity, I do not know!

I am making a list of titles to zero in on for the challenge, so you can be sure that many of my book reviews will be novels in verse this year!

Here is my favorite novel written in verse that I read last year - it's also a Newbery Honor book!

To view the book review I posted for Thanhha Lai's, Inside Out & Back Again - click here.

If you are interested in learning more about the Novels in Verse 2013 Reading Challenge, click Amanda's blog - Born Bookish.

Do you enjoy reading a novel in verse? If so, what is your favorite?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Jabbernowl -
(Sometimes spelled: Jobbernowl.)

nincompoop, numskull.

Example: The village jester was quite a jabbernowl.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

The Dogs of Winter
by Bobbie Pyron

Flap Copy Description:
A small boy in a cruel city and the incredible dogs who save him.

When Ivan's mother disappears, he's abandoned on the streets of Moscow, with little chance to make it through the harsh winter. But help comes in an unexpected form when Ivan is adopted by a pack of dogs who quickly become more than just his street companions: They become  his family. Soon Ivan, who used to love reading fairy tales, is practically living in one, as he and his pack roam the city and countryside, using their wits to find food and shelter, dodging danger, begging for coins. But Ivan can't stay hidden from the world of people forever. When help is finally offered to him, will he be able to accept it? Will he even want to?

My Thoughts:
The Dogs of Winter is based on the amazing true story of the feral child - Ivan Mishukov. It's been a long time since a middle grade novel has moved me to tears - but I actually lost it with this book! Ms. Pyron's novel slowly builds with intensity: like a flurry of snow, moving to a full-blown snowstorm, and culminating in a blizzard of poignant human drama. While the story is powerful; the author's writing style borders on pure poetry. This is the first novel I have read by Bobbie Pyron, but it won't be the last. I would highly recommend The Dogs of Winter to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

To visit the website of Bobbie Pyron - click here:

A Surprise Interview with the author, Bobbie Pyron!

After I finished reading The Dogs of Winter, I was so moved by the novel that I contacted Ms. Pyron to tell her how much I enjoyed the book. We ended up connecting on FB and Twitter, and she graciously agreed to grant me an interview. So, without further ado, please welcome Bobbie Pyron to Writ of Whimsy!

Thanks again, Bobbie, for taking the time to answer a few questions!

What inspired you to write a novel based on the feral child - Ivan Mishukov? 

"I think part of the answer to that is my passionate love of dogs and my strong connection to them. Ever since I was a child, I was convinced I was more canine than human! When my book, A DOG'S WAY HOME (Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins, 2011) came out, so many reviewers and fans asked how I was able to "see through the eyes of a dog" so convincingly. To me, it was the easiest part of writing the book. So in 2005, when I read a magazine article about Ivan Mishukov and his two years living wild on the streets of Moscow with a pack of feral street dogs (he was only 4 at the time), I was completely entranced. I knew I had to write a novel based on his experience with these dogs who became his family, in every sense of the word."

How much time did you spend on research for The Dogs of Winter?

"I spent five years, on and off, doing research for the book. Some people gasp when they hear that. But you have to understand, I've been a librarian for many years. I love research - almost too much! I was in hog heaven. But at a certain point, I got pretty overwhelmed by all that I knew, and all that I still didn't know. I put the book and the research aside for a couple of years and wrote two other books: THE RING (Westside Books, 2009) and A DOG'S WAY HOME. Still, Ivan's story haunted me. I finally went back to it in 2010. I re-read every piece of information I'd gathered, then tried to forget it all, and wrote."

When I read your novel, I felt it would appeal to all ages.
What genre/age group (MG, Upper MG) would you categorize
The Dogs of Winter?

"It is the great good hope of both my self and my editor that the book will have "crossover appeal" and will be read by all ages. Although it is an adventure story and features a young child, on a more universal level, it's an exploration of what defines family. Additionally, when I write a book, I really don't think about what genre it's for. I just write the story that is given to me."

I know that you're also a librarian, Bobbie. How do you balance those responsibilities with your writing?

"I'm lucky in that my husband and I are at the stage of our lives (kids grown and mostly gone!) where I don't have to work full time. So, for the last few years, I've worked only 20 hours a week. And being a librarian is, in many ways, a perfect complement to being a writer. I often say, I'm a librarian who happens to write. Still, the more books I have out there, the harder it gets to juggle the two jobs."

If you had one tip to pass along to aspiring authors, what would it be?

"Wow, that's hard...just one?!! I think it would be to take yourself seriously as a writer, even if you don't think you'll  ever get published. Because if you don't take your passion, your craft, your need to write seriously, no one else will - not your husband/wife, not your children, not your friends. I get so tired of people saying, "I don't have time to write because my husband/partner/kids think it's silly for me to take time away from them to do this." Well honey, don't blame them! You have to believe in yourself before anyone else out there will."

This has been a treat for me, Bobbie. Thanks for the inspiring interview!

As a surprise to those who comment, I will give a copy of
The Dogs of Winter to one lucky winner!
(Please leave an e-mail address if I don't have your contact information.)
The winner will be announced on Saturday, January 19th.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

Downton Abbey's Success

Like so many other Downton Abbey fans last Sunday night, I was captivated by the premiere of the third season.
     Why is the British period drama so wildly popular?
     As I watched the tantalizing depiction of the Crawley Family and their servants unfold, I realized it was due to great writing. As with a well-written novel, Downton Abbey includes several important storytelling elements:

Character Development - Each and every member of the Crawley household has a story to tell. (Even the scullery maid - Daisy - has a few secrets of her own!)

Conflict - Aristocrats and servants; the British and the Americans; and World War I; all combine to cause enough trouble in the castle for several seasons to come!

Theme - As I see it, Downton Abbey's theme revolves around a British aristocratic family struggling to retain their long-held traditions and formalities in a rapidly-changing world in the early part of the twentieth century. (The Americans definitely add spice to the mix! Wasn't Shirley MacLaine's performance awesome?)

Dialogue - The witty exchanges between the characters are not only spot-on - they're hilarious! (Maggie Smith was in rare form last Sunday!)

Tension - There is no shortage of tension in the towering castle. Whether it's Lord Grantham losing a fortune, or Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley barely making it to the altar, those are the enticements we tune in for every week!

Setting - The real-life Highclere Castle, with its rich history and refinements, adds to the believability of this epic television show.

(Note: It doesn't hurt to have award-winning actors either!)

When I watch a theatrical production it's difficult not to dissect the performance this way. Bravo, Julian Fellowes and Downton Abbey!

Are you a fan of Downton Abbey? Do you have a favorite character?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Droodle -

a simple cartoon or doodle, whose contents are given a humorous description.

Example: The student's drawing of his teacher was an extremely funny droodle.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Bibliophile's Corner

The Spindlers
by Lauren Oliver

Flap Copy Description:
     One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning when she woke up, he was not. In fat, he was quite, quite different.

     When Liza's brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.
     She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.
     To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little  more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable well  as terrible dangers. But when will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers' nests, where she encounters the evil queen and must pass a series of deadly tests - or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.

My Thoughts:
The Spindlers is another middle grade novel by the New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Oliver. In this whimsical tale we find the protagonist - Liza - discovering an alternate world through a hidden space in her basement! As in Ms. Oliver's other middle grade novel - Liesl and Po - she weaves themes of love, loyalty, and hope into her magical fantasy adventure. I especially enjoy the author's word choices: she adds several slightly challenging phrases for young readers. I would highly recommend The Spindlers to readers from the ages of eight to twelve!

To learn more about the multi-talented author - Lauren Oliver - click here:

Friday, January 4, 2013

Storyteller's Journey

A Writer in Winter

After the hubbub of the holidays - when all the lights and decorations have come down - the silence of winter seems to fall upon me like a cold, dark blanket.There is that moment where I wonder: Now what? As a writer, there is a long list of tasks to tackle, but the cold, gloomy days seem to make writing almost as difficult as trudging a mile through the snow.

As I pondered this phenomenon I realized that this is natural. Having a spiritual winter is not only acceptable - it is necessary. The concepts for the three manuscripts that I have written all came to me in winter...when my life was less hectic. I don't think that that was a coincidence. Even in nature we see the creatures and plant life experience a period of dormancy in winter. So, while I'm still facing a revision/rewrite of my work in progress, I'm not going to get down on myself if I'm not fully back in my disciplined writing mode just yet. This is the season when my muse seems to visit me the most...when I am at rest. Maybe she'll see fit to bestow on me a wonderful new story!

Do the changing seasons affect your desire or ability to write?

Here's to a good year of writing in 2013, dear friends!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Whimsical Word of the Week

Brumal -

relating to, or occurring in winter.

Example: January brought with it a boisterous, brumal storm.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Sentimental Serendipity

A new year is unfolding - like a blossom with petals curled tightly concealing the beauty within.


Wishing you and yours all the best in 2013!